Cuomo to MTA: Cut LIRR fares during ‘summer of hell’

Working on the railroad: Six weeks (or more) of Amtrak infrastructure work is expected to cause chaos for LIRR commuters this summer.
By GREGORY ZELLER //

Andrew Cuomo wants the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to give Long Island commuters a break.

The governor on Monday called on the MTA to reduce fares for Long Island Rail Road passengers who can’t travel to Midtown Manhattan’s Pennsylvania Station because of Amtrak’s scheduled track-repair work this summer.

Amtrak’s emergency repair work is slated to begin in July and run through September. While it’s ongoing, some LIRR trains will terminate at either the Atlantic Terminal station in Brooklyn or the Hunterspoint Avenue station in Long Island City.

Riders on those “diverted” trains who need to get into Manhattan will have to continue on the MTA’s subway lines – and Cuomo said they should be compensated for the inconvenience.

What’s fare is fair: While announcing the new West End Concourse Monday, Cuomo called for fare cuts for “diverted” LIRR passengers.

While marking the opening of the West End Concourse at Farley, which completes the first phase of the Pennsylvania Station-Farley Complex announced by Cuomo in 2016, the governor called on the MTA to explore “potential discounts” for LIRR commuters who hold monthly, weekly or daily passes, and who wind up on a train that terminates before Penn Station.

“LIRR riders unable to go into Penn Station this summer because of Amtrak’s emergency repair work deserve a discounted fare for enduring the inconvenience of a disrupted commute,” Cuomo said Monday. “Our top priority is ensuring all New Yorkers can get where they need to go as quickly and easily as possible this summer with minimal inconvenience, and this is just another way we can try and relieve frustration.”

The redeveloped Farley Building will ultimately create a new 255,000-square-foot Train Hall with passenger facilities for LIRR and Amtrak riders.

The new West End concourse welcomed Monday increases passenger circulation and streamlines train operations by doubling the length and width of the original concourse, providing new stairways connecting with nine of Penn Station’s 11 train platforms and adding an additional passenger elevator on each platform for comfort and increased accessibility for the physically disabled.

Cuomo has already ordered the MTA to speed up repair work on several regional bridges and tunnels in anticipation of additional vehicular traffic during the Amtrak repair project. According to the governor’s office, major construction work on the Verrazano Narrows Bridge, the Queens-Midtown Tunnel, the Robert F. Kennedy Bridge (a.k.a. the Triborough Bridge) and the Hugh L. Carey Tunnel (a.k.a. the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel) is now slated to be completed by July 8.

Amtrak, which owns and operates Penn Station, is slated to close three of the station’s 21 tracks at a time while repairing aging infrastructure often blamed for service delays. The work is largely expected to take place during the business week, at all hours.

According to Bloomberg, of the 600,000 riders who use Penn Station every weekday, 90 percent ride on commuter railroads – including the LIRR – that pay Amtrak to use its tracks.

With Amtrak projecting six weeks or more of limited service and other disruptions, some quarters are already predicting the “summer of hell” for LIRR commuters.

The MTA – which operates the LIRR, the Metro-North Railroad, New York City Transit and the MTA Bus Company, while maintaining a network of bridges and tunnels connecting points throughout the five boroughs – is North America’s largest transportation network, serving a population of 15.3 million people in a 5,000-square-mile area.


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